Who Pays the Cost of Freedom?

Memorial Day

I remember . . .

Standing on the cemetery lawn with my fellow citizens during Memorial Day. We gathered to honor and mourn our military veterans who’d given the ultimate sacrifice– their lives.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

We’d each been given a red plastic Poppy to wear in remembrance. Gold Star moms and wives received corsages.

A guest speaker shared words from President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us . . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.” 

Tears welled in my eyes as a seven-year-old boy helped his mom place a wreath on the War Memorial. They paused to gaze upon his father’s name now engraved in cold, black granite along with the names of other military veterans from our town who’d died in battle.

A twenty-one gun salute blasted the silence, followed by the somber notes of a bugler playing Taps. Then, the crowd gave an audible sigh as white doves were released from a cage and flew heavenward, a symbol of hope and peace.

After the ceremony, I walked between the graves of military veterans who’d survived the battlefields or served our country in peacetime. Each one who’d served had an American flag to mark the grave.

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Row after row…their headstones were lined up  like platoons awaiting inspection. Rank, name, military branch, and their years on earth now etched on flat, stone tablets instead of metal dog tags. Their lives summarized in epitaphs, their religious faith professed in symbols.

How could I not be touched or consider the cost of freedom?

But for every fallen hero or heroine, I particularly remember . . .

That seven year-old-boy who lost a father and will never hug him again. I remember the youthful mom who became a widow in the prime of life. I think about their extended family and the heartache that goes on and on. And I’m struck once again by the harsh, sad reality . . .

Freedom has a price tag, but deceased veterans aren’t the only ones who sacrifice and pay the cost. Family members have to learn how to ‘carry on’ without their loved one.

Memorial Day

So how can we remember and serve military families in a tangible way? 

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)

Here’s a website listing numerous military charities that offer a means of showing love and support.

Veteran and Military Charities

Are you a wounded warrior or married to one? Have you lost a family member who died serving his/her country?

What helps you cope, or encourages your heart?

What Must I Sacrifice?

Does the word sacrifice leave a rancid taste in your mouth? Why does that word have to be a negative connotation? What if the purpose of sacrifice was releasing something (maybe even something good) to receive what’s best?

Last month, I wanted what I wanted. What I wanted is mine to know. But oh, how I clung to it with selfish hands when a thought fluttered into my mind and hovered there. A lightbulb clicked.

Could I . . . would I give up this thing I wanted? Were there things I refused to sacrifice? I cringed to think I might have other gods before GOD!

The Lord knows I love him, I reasoned, without sacrificing something to prove I love Him. Lord, is there no other way?

“No other way.” Weren’t those the words Jesus spoke before he went to the cross?

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Sweating drops of blood, Jesus knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane and begged God to remove “this cup” from him. Jesus wasn’t refusing to give up some pleasure, or vice, or “thing” that stood between him and God the Father. He asked if there was some other way to atone for people’s sins than death by crucifixion.

However, Jesus only wanted what the Father wanted. So he said, “Not my will, but Yours.”

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Do I want what God wants?

I remember a woman who once sat beside me, crying buckets of anguish. Her red, puffy eyelids were squeezed shut. Tension riveted her body so that even her hands were clenched in fists as though subliminally curling herself into a fetal position.

I’d tried to soothe her with words. Then I held my tongue and stroked her knuckles, threading my fingers between her fists to gently prod her hands open so she could release the stress and sorrow. As I massaged her hands, her tears subsided. She breathed deeply and relaxed.

Is that me, Lord? Holding onto regrets? Worry gripped between my fists? Clinging to what I want instead of receiving what you want for me? Even if it feels painful in the moment?

“So often man, crying out for some blessing, has yet such tight hold on some earth-treasure that he has no hand to receive Mine, as I hold it out in love.” (God Calling)

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Lord Jesus, help me open my hands, knowing your will for me is better than any “thing” I hold dear in this world.

Show me how to spread my fingers, palms up . . . the same way you stretched your arms wide when they nailed your hands to a cross . . . so I can release whatever’s inside my fists. And receive Your very best even in this moment.